A former New York police officer and cellmate of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was found guilty Thursday of killing four men in 2015, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced.
Nicholas Tartaglione, who is described by US Attorney Damien Williams as "a former police officer-turned drug dealer," faces a possible life sentence in federal prison after a jury found him guilty of killing Martin Luna, Miguel Luna, Urbano Santiago and Hector Gutierrez, according to a Thursday news release.
In 2015, Tartaglione suspected Martin Luna had stolen money from him and planned to confront him during an in-person meeting, to which Martin brought along his nephews, Miguel Luna and Urbano and his family friend Gutierrez, the release said. But the meeting was a "deadly trap," according to Williams, and the events that came thereafter "could only be described as pure terror."
Tartaglione tortured Martin and then forced one of Martin's nephews to watch as he strangled him to death with a zip-tie, according to the US Attorney's Office statement.
The former officer and two of his associates then brought Miguel Luna, Urbano and Gutierrez to a remote wooded location, forced them to kneel and fatally shot them in the back of the head before burying their bodies in a mass grave, the release said.
The three men were "simply at the wrong place at the wrong time," Williams said.
The four bodies were found in December 2016 on a property belonging to Tartaglione, located about an hour north of New York City, according to the Chester Police Department.
Tartaglione pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment charging him with the four murders and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, CNN previously reported.
Lawyers for Tartaglione have not responded to CNN's request for comment.
"Tartaglione's heinous acts represent a broader betrayal, as he was a former police officer who once swore to protect the very community he devastated," Williams said in a statement.
Tartaglione shared a prison cell with Epstein at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City and had been movedbefore Epstein's suicide in August 2019, CNN previously reported.
The former officer was one of the first people FBI agents sought to interview after Epstein, 66, was found dead in the special housing unit of the prison. Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges accusing him of operating a sex trafficking ring from 2002 to 2005 at his Manhattan mansion and his Palm Beach estate in which he paid girls as young as 14 for sex.